TRAVEL: Puerto Galera, Mindoro

Travel Date: 10 – 13 March 2017

Despite its popularity and its proximity to Manila, I have never been to Puerto Galera. The reputation of the place as a “beach party destination” just didn’t appeal to me.

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Sabang Beach

Obviously, I am no longer a Puerto Galera virgin. I went not because of the beach, but for an art and music festival in the mountains. (Read: Malasimbo Art and Music Festival).

We had free time during the mornings until late afternoons. To make the most out of our stay, we decided to check out the town. As expected, there’s more to Puerto Galera (Mindoro, in general) than its beaches.

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The Church of Immaculate Conception

From our hostel, my friend and I each took a habal-habal (motorcycle) to take us to town.P_20170313_081354.jpg

The Church of Immaculate Conception looks just like any other ordinary modern church: gated, covered pathway, high school kids gathered around to practice a school play.P_20170311_112456.jpg

Going around the property, we found out that the Church overlooks a harbor where several yachts are docked. The turquoise water was so calming to look at, we decided to chill here for a bit.P_20170311_112629.jpg

Surprising Sinandigan

After the festival, we decided to stay back one more day to explore another barangay nearby. From our AirBNB, we moved to a hostel run by an Australian father-and-son, Paddy’s Backpacker Hostel and Dive Center in Brgy. Sinandigan.

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Paddy’s

Sinandigan is a barangay a few minutes away from the dive beach of Sabang, Puerto Galera. Unlike the touristy Sabang lined with hostels, hotels and transient homes for travelers and divers, Sinandigan is a quiet residential barangay. There were only two hostels in the area.

We decided to get lost and see what it had to offer.

Playa Beach

Following a narrow path near out hostel, we stumbled upon this raw beauty of a beach. ‘Playa’ is Spanish for ‘beach’. It was so raw, the locals just call it Playa.P_20170312_142829.jpg

It was pretty much a ghost town (ghost beach?). Lined with abandoned divers’ resorts, it has it’s own dock that looks out to crashing waves. The dilapidated hotels were a bit disconcerting. But being in an isolated part of town, it was also weirdly calming.P_20170312_143357.jpg

Sinandigan Lighthouse

We came across a local in the area who told us about a lighthouse not far away. With nothing else to do, we took off to look for our next destination.P_20170312_145154.jpg

Now, when locals tell you it’s not far, don’t believe them. Distance is relative, so be prepared to walk for hours. As always, getting lost is always part of the fun! We walked over an hour through narrow alleys, open fields and foliage paths; and – if there was anyone around – ask for directions until we reached our destination.  P_20170312_151120.jpg

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View from the lighthouse
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Marion atop the lighthouse

Tamaraw Falls

Our next stop took almost an hour ride of habal-habal across quaint little towns, beautiful seascapes and daunting mountain walls. Tamaraw Falls is located along the main highway that connects Puerto Galera to Calapan.P_20170313_084027.jpgP_20170313_084013.jpgP_20170313_084618.jpg

This 423-foot drop twin falls is named after Mindoro Dwarf Buffalos, which are native only to the island of Mindoro. A public wading pool and picnic area is located at the foot of the falls, where tourists can rest and enjoy the scenery for a fee.

The Grotto

Being a coastal town, Puerto Galera has many beaches both public and private. On our way back, we spotted a man-made Grotto built over rock boulders overlooking a random beach. We stopped by to take in the wonderful view of this province for one last time.P_20170313_092038.jpgP_20170313_091222.jpg

As an archipelago of 7,641 islands (with more undiscovered popping up), our country offers more than just beach parties. Whether you are into mountain hiking, chasing waterfalls, lake swims, scuba diving, and whatnot, the Philippines is blessed with natural wonders every kind of traveler can enjoy.

Ingat and see you on the road!

How to get there:

Take a bus bound for Batangas Pier (Pasay, Cubao or Alabang Terminals). Php 150 – 250.

From Batangas Pier, take a ferry going to Sabang – about an hour. Php 230. 

Where to stay:

Paddy’s Bar and Backpackers Accommodation and Dive Centre offers dorm rooms for as low as Php 250. Run by father-and-son tandem Paddy and Spud, they also offer scuba lessons care of their in-house dive master Lorenzo. Follow their Facebook Fan Page here: https://www.facebook.com/PaddysBarRestaurant/

Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at emaileatpraylovel@gmail.com

TRAVEL: Malasimbo Art and Music Festival 2017

Super mega late post!

Travel date: 10 – 13 March 2017


The Malasimbo Art and Music Festival is an annual event held within the natural amphitheater on Mt. Malasimbo, Puerto Galera.P_20170310_170824.jpg

Now on it’s 7th year, this year’s line up  featured international artists such as Alfredo Rodriguez, Jordan Rakei, Manila – based June Marieezy, and local acts such as Apartel (Ely Buendia’s latest band), Bras Pas Pas and artists from different parts of the country.

P_20170311_233954.jpgP_20170310_183517.jpgAside from music, it also aims to promote the indigenous tribe of Mangyan providing them a platform for their culture and handicrafts.

There are two stages to choose from: the main stage and the Mangyan Village stage. Headliners play at the main stage while the Mangyan Village stages talks on eco-tourism, the Mangyan people and up and coming musicians. This is also where the “silent disco” takes place. For a fee, you get to choose your music genre, get your own noise-cancelling headphones and dance the night away. It can be pretty funny people-watching here.

The festival also features art installations from local artists, including art from the festival’s co-founder, Olivia d’Aboville.

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Giant daffodils made from plastic by artist Olivia d’Aboville
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Marion stopping to smell (?) the flowers
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Looks like a school of fish swimming towards moonlight
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I have no idea what this one is

The festival runs for 3 days, with ticket options for single- and multiple – day passes. The event offers a campsite for those who opted to stay for the entire show.

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Jeepney transport for Malasimbo Art and Music Festival

As for those who chose to stay outside of Mt. Malasimbo, there are jeepney pick-up and drop-off points strategically located around Puerto Galera. My group stayed in Sabang, a diving spot about an hour away from the venue.

This is my first time to attend the event. While I find it a bit too ‘hipster’ for my very basic taste (raise your hands, Mariah Carey fans!), I loved the fact that they get to feature regional acts on stage. My favorite would have to be Kawangis ng Tribu, an ethno-modern band from Palawan.P_20170310_193555.jpg

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With Kawangis ng Tribu vocalist, Pag-asa. Weird and funny back story: Marion and I were walking around the venue when I saw her looking out from backstage. Having enjoyed their performance moments before, I smiled at her and said ‘Galing niyo! (You were great!)’. She smiled back and eagerly waved at me to come over. We started talking about their awesome music and their performance, about their flight from Palawan, when their next performance is, and how she has been looking for me since this afternoon… when it suddenly hit me. She thought I was someone else! I then awkwardly told her that I was just a fan, and she might have mistaken me for someone else. We were both laughing by the end of it and decided to take a photo for posterity.

 

 

 

The event was well organized, with safety checkpoints manned by both military troops and the police. Each person is frisked thoroughly and each bag checked carefully.

Outside food and drinks are not allowed inside the venue – not even water. This makes the event even more expensive, especially with the very limited and very expensive options for food and drinks within the event grounds (drinks were triple the price of regular). While transportation terminals are also well appointed, waiting time can take a while (the longest time we waited for the jeepney to leave was almost 2 hours).

Would I go back to next year’s Malasimbo Art and Music Festival? I am not sure. While the objective of the event is noble, the art installations compelling and the music stimulating, the event itself feels a bit too highbrow for me. But as always, the beautiful view and the relaxing vibes of nature always makes up for everything.

To know more about Malasimbo Music and Art Festival, like their Facebook fan page here: https://www.facebook.com/Malasimbofestival/

Ingat and see you on the road!

 Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at emaileatpraylovel@gmail.com

TRAVEL: Traversing Mt. Cinco Picos to Silaguin Cove, Zambales

Travel Date: February 25-26 2017

Zambales is a province northwest of Manila, about 4 hours away. It has recently gained popularity amongst the younger generation of travelers because of its majestic Cawag mountain range and isolated coves ideal for day hikes, traversing and camping. (For the uninitiated, a traverse is crossing a mountain from point A to point B.)

I have always been reluctant about traversing. The thought of carrying everything with me all throughout the climb tires me out already. But after conquering Mt. Balingkilat (the highest peak of the Zambales Cawag Mountian Range) – Nagsasa Cove – a traverse that lasted 13 hours through a freaking typhoon, mountain-to-sea doesn’t seem so bad after all. The beach at the end feels like a reward after a grueling hike.

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A rocky start.

Mt. Cinco Picos literally means Five Peaks and is part of the Cawag Mountain Range. Because majority of its trail is open, we decided to do an afternoon – night trek. We started at 3pm, crossing dry, rocky riverbeds and grasslands.

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Due to time constraints, we decided to pass through campsite and head straight to peak 1. We reached the first summit at around 730pm, for camp, dinner and socials.

We were the only group in the mountain –  a novelty nowadays when climbing and the reason why I prefer going North (versus climbing around Cavite, Batangas and Rizal). We woke up at 6am to see the wonderful sunrise.

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Unfortunately for me, I woke up with a really massive headache. I had to stay back at camp while two of my teammates explore peak 2.P_20170226_065845.jpg

We weren’t able to scale all five peaks, since this would require two or three more hours (and my hangover was really bad).

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Subic Bay
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Silanguin Cove

Once complete, we broke camp and started the trek down to Silanguin Cove. It was a relatively easy descent, considering my headache. It took us 3 hours to reach the cove, passing by yet dramatic landscapes.

P_20170226_080235.jpgThere were a lot of kaingin or burnt clearing during our hike. Our guide told us it was to make way for wider trails. But do we really need to burn down large chunks of land? Hmmm.P_20170226_092358.jpg

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The water was calm when we arrived… until it started raining. 
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All to ourselves! 

Unlike the more popular coves of Anawangin and Nagsasa, Silanguin Cove is almost isolated. There was only one other group leaving when we reached our resort host. Like the mountain, we had the resort all to ourselves yet again! Curiously, we spotted several yachts docked nearby. Kanino kaya ‘yon?

We had a few hours to spare before going home. We ate brunch, slept and dipped in the waters to cool down. The warm water was a relief to our sore legs. It was the perfect way to recover from the massive hangover (never again!!!) and to end our traverse.

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Team Silanguin

Ingat and see you on the road!

How to get there:

Take a Victory Liner bus bound for Olongapo. (Php 250)

Take the blue jeepney that will bring you to Subic Town. (Php 20)

Hire a tricycle to take you to the jump off point (Php 100)

The hike will require you to have a guide and a contact in Silanguin. To experience Zambales like a local, you may contact Tim or Chie at: +63919 991 5494 or +63998 862 7015 or like their Facebook Fan Page here: https://www.facebook.com/ToyoTim-Travels-1911402095750361/ They specialize in personalized local tours – ideal for solo travelers and small groups.

Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at emaileatpraylovel@gmail.com